change, grad school

Opening the Veuve

poppin' champagne? poppin’ champagne?

I had this nice bottle of champagne, this bottle of Veuve Clicquot I’d been meaning to open, but I could never quite find the occasion to do it.  It started over a year ago, when I began the process of applying to graduate school for a Masters in Conference Interpreting (MCI).

In January 2014, I sent a letter to the Glendon School of Translation in Toronto expressing my interest in their MCI program.   They seemed interested in me too, and scheduled the interpreting aptitude tests for me.  A win! I passed the first round of tests, and then the second one.  Another win! But no, I wasn’t ready for the Veuve.  Just passing the aptitude tests wasn’t enough of an accomplishment for me.  I was consumed by anxiety while I waited for the results, and when they finally admitted me to the program, guess what?  Yep.  Still no Veuve.  Instead, I was rushing around, panicking, trying to figure out how I’d go to school full-time and work full-time.

I figured it out (with a tremendous amount of help from many people) and really struggled through the first few months of the program, in ways I didn’t expect.  The first year is in an online classroom, so I was able to continue working at my full-time job in Indianapolis. I couldn’t wait till our holiday break in December so that I could celebrate surviving the first semester.  But when that break came, instead of relaxing and enjoying my accomplishment, all I could think about was how I had to go back in January.  A new year, and, you guessed it, still no Veuve.

This Veuve, this fancy gold-labeled champagne was now mocking me from my kitchen counter.  There was no accomplishment big enough, nothing I could do that seemed to warrant opening it.  In January 2015, I put my little nose back to the grindstone and gutted through the rest of the first academic year.

In April 2015, we took our final exams.  It was tough to feel accomplished as I received my passing scores for each exam (there were five) since I got the scores separately, by mostly informal emails. As the stakes got higher, so did my unreasonable expectations for the outcomes. 

I had this fantasy of one big high final exam score being delivered to me by mail.  Or by a grand marshal in a parade. A big card with a bow on it delivered by parade.  Maybe also with confetti.  There wasn’t any mail with any bow. No parade.  No confetti.  No Veuve.

But we weren’t done yet.  In May, we had our transition exams.  These are pass-fail exams that determine if we can continue to the second year of the program.  I thought that when I (hopefully) passed these high stakes exams, I’d dig in to the Veuve.  You can guess what happened (or didn’t happen) with the Veuve.

But this part, maybe you didn’t see coming: I found out that I performed well on my transition exams, that I was admitted to the second year, and I felt disappointed.  I actually cried a little, and not tears of joy.  The whole thing felt anticlimactic to me.  I couldn’t feel really happy for myself.  I had a self pity party and decided nobody cared. I actually said the words, “Nobody cares that I passed my exams” to the person who cared the most. I know, don’t tell me. I felt like a major jerk when I realized what I’d said.  Veuve? No way, not for this tantrum-y conference interpreter-to-be .

In order to finish my graduate program, I have to relocate temporarily to Toronto.  I have to move out of the house I’ve owned for ten years and rent it.  I have to resign from my job of seven years, where I work with people I love.  At one time, quitting my job to finish graduate school sounded exciting to me.  Now it just sounds scary.  It’s not anything that makes a girl feel like poppin’ champagne.

Over ten years ago, when I started working as an agency interpreter, I wanted so badly to be a full-time staff interpreter.  It seemed impossible. Then I got one job, and then another, as a staff interpreter.  I wanted to go to France and speak French, so I did.  Then I wanted to be an interpreter trainer.  Now I’m an interpreter trainer.  Then I wanted to get my national certification as a healthcare interpreter.  Now I’m nationally certified.  Then I wanted my state court certification.  Now I’m state court certified.  I wanted to write a blog, and now I write a blog.  I wanted to do legal work, and now I do legal work.  I wanted more than anything to go to grad school for conference interpreting, and now I’m in grad school learning to be a conference interpreter.

Now I just can’t wait to finish grad school, and I’m afraid that when I do, it will be just another box checked off, and another year will have passed, without having actually experienced my life.  I keep thinking, As soon as I get my student visa, As soon as I rent my place, As soon as I resign from my job, As soon as, As soon as…

Last week, in a different adventure, I helped my brother move cross-country, in a car. With his baby. And two dogs. It was a blast.  My boyfriend came to meet us at my brother’s new place, and snagged the Veuve from my kitchen before he left and brought it with him.  Surrounded by moving boxes and eating on paper plates, we celebrated.

I have to be in Toronto by the beginning of September, and I’d say I’ve got less than two months before my adventure starts, but the adventure is happening now, and it’s been happening.  I’m looking forward to being in Toronto and sharing my experience with you.  In the meantime, I invite you to open the champagne, appreciate your accomplishments, pat yourself on the back, and give yourself a break.  I know I am.

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.  Cheers!

8 thoughts on “Opening the Veuve”

  1. Brilliant as usual Sunshine and so proud and happy for you!! Let’s get a box of Veuve ready when you come back from Toronto. Best wishes and see you soon!

  2. First, congratulations on ALL of your accomplishments!
    As a very goal-oriented person, I can relate to your post. Don’t know how many times I’ve “checked the box” or crossed something off a list.

    I’ve learned a few things along the way (and I am quite a bit older than you!). FINALLY I’m able to savor the NOW, rather than always looking ahead towards the “next thing”.

    I’m a hospice nurse these days, but it’s not hospice that taught me to appreciate each moment. Think I discovered that first, and then naturally was drawn to hospice-where my patients reinforce the importance of being present daily.

    Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Toronto. I know you will do well-just remember to be well also.

    1. Arline, it’s so great to hear from you. From our waitressing days together I always remember you being so patient, calm and kind. When I saw you were working in hospice, I thought, “Yes, of course!” I think I came to enjoying the moment the other way around–many experiences in the hospital have made an impression on me and taught me how fleeting time is, and how quickly things can change–for better or worse. When it comes to being present and appreciating the moment, some days I get it better than others.

      It’s always great to hear from old friends!

  3. Liz! Awesome post! If it doesn’t feel super fancy or accomplished to you as you go through it, know that it does to me and the other interpreters I talk to! You are doing so great and I know you’re so passionate about interpreting. It can feel un-fancy while you’re doing it because grad school can be like one of those rainclouds from the depression commercial that just follows you around, but once you’re done it’ll be amazing and I can’t wait to hear what’s next! And the move to Toronto will be something you’ll always be glad you did. 🙂

    1. Anna thanks so much for your comment–it really has me laughing. I was unprepared for how intense–and at times, punishing–grad school could be. A raincloud that followed me around is a good description. Now that I’m a little distanced in time from the end of my first year, I can begin to see how the experience has stretched and grown me, which in the end is exactly why I’m going. And I agree, I’ll always be happy that I didn’t shy away from Toronto!

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